Second graders familiarize themselves with the material as topics emerge from a given context, a story, poem, song, or skit. They start the year with the French alphabet, design creative letters representing an animal or object (C for ‘crabe’, for example), and create a sampler. These creative activities support proficiency in spelling simple words from the lesson. They learn the days of the week, the months of the year, and to say the date. In connection with the social studies curriculum, which looks at their family history, they learn the names of family members. The second part of the year is devoted to preparing and rehearsing a play, usually based on a popular tale such as Le Petit Chaperon Rouge, or Boucle d’Or et les Trois Ours.
The primary focus of second grade handcrafts is weaving. The class jumps right in with the classic hand-loom potholder project. Typically, when children make these potholders they randomly apply the loops and watch a pattern emerge. When Willow’s second graders try their hand at it, they must follow a prescribed pattern (in their choice of colors) in order to create a specific design. This involves a deeper comprehension of how the “under/over” creates the pattern, how to use math skills to understand the multiples, and how to order the loops. Students develop a keen awareness of the pattern as they make sure that it is forming as planned, using problem solving skills to correct any missteps. Once the weavers have mastered all of these skills and the pattern is completely woven, each child uses a technique reminiscent of finger knitting to remove the work from the loom and finish the edges.
Next, in coordination with the Language Arts Program, the students use their new weaving skills to tell a story. Historically, people have recorded their histories in pictures and patterns incorporated into their handmade household articles. In this vein, the second graders practice a new way of communicating a story. Each student relays a tale about a time when they were required to put the month’s virtue into action (Perseverance, Diligence or Temperance). In handcrafts, each child creates a unique piece using their choice of a variety of materials: paper, felt and branches, and reeds from the woods, to tell the story in another way. Next in the sequence is making baskets, a project using coils of manila rope and brightly colored wool with a weaving technique that is similar to sewing. It is an opportunity for the students to tell the story of their Willow experience in color. The activity serves as an introduction to their social studies investigations of the First Nations people.
The wood-working project for this grade is a table top heddle loom. This project is an introduction to woodworking tools for cutting and assembling, and follows a study of First Nation tools and artifacts that the students have just completed in social studies. Each child learns to measure, cut (90 and 45 degrees), assemble (nails, machine screws, and wing nuts) and finish (sand flat and round objects) as part of this exercise. They work in teams to promote cooperative learning and safety with tools. In the process of building, the children develop an awareness of the wood and its properties and build a deeper understanding for how the loom itself works. To prepare for weaving, each child learns to wind their shuttles and is introduced to the process of warping their loom. With all this accomplished and the loom complete, the students begin to create a unique weaving to tell Willow’s story of place. Having the underlying knowledge of the working parts of their own loom, they can transfer this basic understanding to a variety of other types of looms. Each of the second grade students exhibits great pride in their finished loom and is eager to continue weaving on it.
The integrated and diverse nature of the second grade themes promotes the practice of language arts skills in all subject areas. Utilizing a variety of genres of literature within each theme provides a rich context from which to draw upon literate behaviors. Students acquire productive reading habits that support their stamina and desire to read as they learn to select developmentally appropriate independent reading material. Students are taught comprehension strategies to aid in their understanding of increasingly difficult texts. Specifically, they visualize, recall details, make and adjust predictions, compose questions, compare stories, make personal connections, recognize cause and effect, and analyze characters. Journal keeping and oral presentations provide a structured means by which children can express their responses to literature. As students analyze literature for elements of good writing, they learn to use similar conventions in their own pieces. They compose, illustrate, and publish legends, mysteries, fractured tales, poetry, journal entries, interviews, historical interpretations, and scientific reports. These writing projects often pertain to the thematic units and include literary terms like comparatives, similes, and alliteration. Conventional structures of writing are taught as students write four sentence types (statement, question, exclamation, and command), paragraphs, and stories with beginnings, middles and ends. Second graders move from phonetic to conventional spelling through spelling sorts, homework assignments, and word wall activities geared to assist them in recognizing spelling patterns. Proofreading activities are practiced daily as students edit sentences to include capitalization, punctuation, singular and plural, and tense. They also analyze sentences for the common parts of speech including articles, common and proper nouns, pronouns, verbs (including linking and helping verbs), adjectives, adverbs, and contractions. Handwriting in script and typing on computers are introduced towards the end of the school year.
In addition to selecting books of personal interest at any reading level, students in second grade also select books that are a good fit for their reading level, supporting their growth as emerging/transitional readers. Students navigate the physical library space independently and participate in written responses to literature. Author studies are continued at this age providing students with opportunities to examine the style, content, and messages of various writers which they carry over into their personal writing experiences in the classroom. Read alouds continue in second grade whereby students see virtues within story characters and also draw connections between story content and classroom studies.
The second grade math units illustrate the school’s commitment to interdisciplinary learning. Numbers to 200 are represented on number grids, which are used to represent significant “years ago” from the social studies program. Students identify patterns on these grids and number lines using skip counting by twos, fives, and tens. They also work with ones and tens as they manipulate and compare numbers up to 1,000. Students collect, tally, and create bar graphs in order to analyze data. Two data projects of importance are the school-wide lost tooth survey and the Willow Pond Population Study. Students learn to tell time by hour, half hour, and quarter hour intervals. They create a variety of time lines including one representing the early life of Theodore Roosevelt up to his presidency. Triple-digit addition and subtraction is practiced first in the context of expanded notation and later using common algorithms to solve real-world problems. Fractions and their various representations are studied and applied to two-dimensional objects. Children practice currency skills by making different coin combinations of twenty-five cents, fifty cents, and one dollar. Linear measurement activities that use both standard and metric units and are integrated with the science program. Dinosaur lengths are measured and marked on the schoolyard and are integrated with the fossil study. The children also graph the temperature over two-week period, utilizing both Fahrenheit and Celsius scales. At the end of second grade, students are introduced to the concepts of multiplication and division.
In second grade, students continue to gain more tools for musical self-expression. They build on the solfège that they know by adding re and do. This gives them the full pentatonic scale, and opens the door to a whole new repertoire of music! In rhythm, students learn sixteenth notes, half notes, and whole notes. They read, write, and learn to recognize these new elements in their folk songs and singing games. They also improvise and compose in the pentatonic scale. They broaden their repertoire of folk songs, singing games, and movement games. On the instruments, they continue to refine the basic skills needed to play in an ensemble: beginning and ending together, playing on the beat, and listening to one another more carefully as they explore more complicated music in two and three parts using the full pentatonic scale.
The second grade science curriculum challenges students to think and act as scientists. Driven by natural curiosity, students learn to solve meaningful problems and questions using the scientific method. Topics are sequenced to coincide with other subject areas. For example, students simultaneously learn about adaptations of the three North American bear as they create their own Frank Asche inspired bear book in language arts and study the early life of Theodore Roosevelt in social studies. These opportunities for cross-curricular investigations make for a rich and authentic experience. A review of sorting and classification of non-living collections is applied to animal and plant groups. Students generate questions about a mystery invertebrate (Tenebrio Molitor), which they answer through observation and experimentation. This unit reinforces an understanding of life cycles and prepares students for the Willow Pond Population Study which consists of invertebrate collection, identification, sorting, tallying, graphing, and publication on the internet. Food webs are created that demonstrate interdependence in the pond. Students identify the characteristics of light through a series of student and teacher designed activities including the creation of a sundial. They study magnetism by testing magnetic properties. The basic states of matter as applied to water are studied via The Willow School’s unique water system. By studying fossils, students learn about the exploits of early paleontologists and that scientific knowledge changes as a result of new discoveries. Finally, the science, origin, and characteristics of sound are explored through student activities and integrated with a language arts project pertaining to the history of jazz.
The essential question of the second grade social studies curriculum is “Why is the past important to me?” Students explore different communities by investigating how they evolve. Extracting information from photographs, paintings, artifacts, interviews, and fiction and nonfiction texts, students reconstruct past community life and gain an appreciation for the historical value of multiple perspectives and primary sources. Students begin with their own family, creating a family tree, photograph display, and artifact museum. They collect stories from their grandparents and also conduct interviews at a local retirement home. Studying Willow’s collection of campus artifacts and visiting a local functioning historic farm, connects students to the history of the school’s site. In the second semester, students learn about sustainable communities as they investigate the first inhabitants of this area, the Lenape. Students imagine Lenape life through reading legends, studying artifacts from the Morris Museum, and visiting a Lenape home reconstruction at the Great Swamp. A slide presentation of the Cree of Northern Quebec aids students in comparing Lenape culture with our present relationship to the environment . Every spring children create a Lenape garden featuring the Lenape’s three sisters: corn, beans, and squash. Second graders study cartography as they create ground view and bird’s eye view maps of their rooms, the school garden, and their classroom. Students use their maps (which include a title, key, scale, compass rose, and other cartographic symbols) to locate hidden, “mystery” objects. Continents and oceans are studied in the context of the discovery of America. The explorations and routes of the Vikings, Christopher Columbus, and Henry Hudson are examined and mapped. Students also compare and contrast the worldviews of the First Nation’s residents with those of the European explorers as they question what causes a group to thrive or collapse and how needs are met in a sustainable community. An on-site archaeological dig is the final second grade activity. Children learn excavation practices as they catalogue, map, and interpret their findings. This authentic learning experience highlights how history can be reconstructed through the work of an archaeologist. Throughout the year second graders keep a journal and create a timeline of significant events.
The second grade students work on a series of projects designed to help enhance classroom themes such as the study of family history, self-reflection, the virtues of respect and responsibility, the study of snowflakes, native cultures, and dragons. Students spend time working with the concepts of emphasis, color mixing, proportion, texture, design, analogous color, overlapping, form, texture, and pattern by viewing and discussing works of art from cultural and master artists such as Edvard Munch, the W.P.A. poster artists, George Seurat, Wassily Kandinsky, and native African pottery sculptors. Projects include respect and responsibility themed poster designs, mixed-media family tree compositions, Expressionistic watercolor self-portraits, snowflake design drawings, clay pinch pots, pointillism personal place drawings, jazz inspired abstract drawings, and dragon collages. Each project is designed to enhance students’ artistic skills, craftsmanship, and understanding of art room concepts, while encouraging each student to develop his or her unique artistic voice.
In second grade, students focus on mastering the correct technique for locomotor and nonlocomotor skills. They begin learning skills at a level that allows them to transfer weight from one body part to another with control. By the end of the school year, students demonstrate more control when using manipulative skills and can describe the correct technique in greater detail. They learn about the benefits of physical activity, the purpose of good nutrition, and how to solve movement problems with a partner. Students learn the terms force, open space, and base of support as they experience them during physical education lessons.